Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 7:00 AM
This is our last “baseball only” week of the summer, with the NFL Preseason getting under way this coming Sunday with the Hall of Fame Game. That will give us one last chance to check in on one of our favorite indicators stats in the Major Leagues. You longtime readers will recognize it: Wins Minus Home Games Played.
Baseball schedules are prone to imbalances through the course of a season that create illusions in the standings. You can take a snapshot at almost any time, and find a team or two that have played a lot more home games than road games, or vice versa. If you’re trying to have a full understanding of how good teams truly are (or aren’t), then you need to adjust for those splits.
Wins Minus Home Games does that in a finger snap. It’s particularly helpful in the second half or the season because it helps frame the pennant races. Today we’ll look at the National League. Tomorrow we’ll look at the American League. Friday we’ll showcase a series preview (most likely Texas at Oakland, but possibly St. Louis at Cincinnati).
Here’s the National League in Wins Minus Home Games Played (data through the games of Monday Night because of publication deadlines)…
NY Mets -4
Atlanta has a huge edge…one it’s not likely to blow even though they lost a key pitcher to injury last week. The big news is just beneath Atlanta. Washington has played a home friendly schedule. They’re below .500 overall for the season despite having played six more home games than road games through Monday. Philadelphia has been road heavy, and could jump past the Nats when that evens out. Bottom line: Atlanta is the only playoff caliber team in the division right now. Sleeper note for handicappers: the Mets are closer in ability to Washington than you had been thinking!
St. Louis +13
Chicago Cubs -1
There are no surprises at the top…as St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati continue to dominate. They’re all clearly playoff caliber teams…and are all likely to reach the postseason barring a stunning collapse. The Cubs should jump out at you. Many handicappers lump them in with the patsies of the league. Yet, they actually grade out better here than the Washington Nats! The Cubs have played several more road games than home games. This suggests some hidden value in their moneylines. Interesting test for them this weekend when the red-hot LA Dodgers come to town. Milwaukee is almost indistinguishable from Miami in this stat, even though their full season record is better.
LA Dodgers +2
San Diego -2
San Francisco -9
This is a little misleading because the LA Dodgers are much better than that number would suggest with a healthy lineup. They’re still not yet back to complete health. But, the roster is much more loaded than +2 would suggest. Over the past month, LAD have been the best team in the National League…and you should think of them as being at least +10 caliber.
Nobody else in the division is playing winning baseball when you adjust for the home/road split. Colorado in particular is much worse than you were probably thinking. A home-friendly schedule has them higher up in your newspaper standings. San Diego is probably a bit better. Put them on the list with the Cubs and Mets as a possible value sleeper outside of the pennant race from this point forward.
In terms of the playoff picture, the lineup may already be set! The Dodgers don’t have much margin for error given their horrible start to the season. But, if they just play .600 ball the rest of the way, nobody in their weak division is going to catch them. Unless Arizona or Washington catch fire, all that’s left to figure out is which two of the three NL Central powers will get stuck in the Wildcard playoff.
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Back Thursday to run the numbers for the American League. Football coverage resumes Sunday with a divisional preview to get you ready for the Cowboys/Dolphins Preseason opener. We’ll run all eight divisional previews in fairly short order over the opening weeks of the exhibition slate…mixed in with important baseball series previews as the pennant races progress.
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